The Life Of Henrietta Lacks

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Henrietta Lacks died in 1951 of cervical cancer, leaving behind a husband, five children and some cells taken from her without her permission. These cells continue to revolutionize the scientific field today and have played an integral role in some of the most important advances in medicine: cloning, chemotherapy, gene mapping, the polio vaccine and in vitro fertilization. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks answers a lot of questions regarding the Lacks family, but also poses a number of questions regarding ethics, consent and how far society is willing to go to make medical advances. George Gey was the head of tissue culture at Hopkins and was determined to grow the first immortal human cells. Researchers in 1943 proved an immortal…show more content…
Many people would assume that, because of HeLa’s impact on society, the Lacks family is probably very wealthy and well informed about HeLa cells; unfortunately, that is not the case. Not only did the Lacks feel taken advantage of by the medical community, but it wasn’t until an article by Howard Jones in December 1971 that Henrietta’s real name was finally revealed. That same article was used to inform Bobbette Lacks, Henrietta’s daughter-in-law, that the immortal cells she had been reading about in the paper were Henrietta’s. Bobbette was the first member of the Lacks family to learn about the fate of Henrietta’s cells and she immediately ran to the family yelling, “Part of your mother, it’s alive!”(181). The family felt misinformed, confused, betrayed and most of all, angry. In 1976, Mike Rodgers published an article in Rolling Stone that informed the Lacks family that people were buying and selling Henrietta’s cells. The family immediately accused Hopkins of withholding money from them. Lawrence, Henrietta’s eldest son, was quoted saying, “Hopkins say they gave them cells away, but they made millions! It’s not fair! She’s the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother so important to

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